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'West Side Story' on stage at Liberty

The Jets of "West Side Story" stare down their opposing gang. From left: sophomore Jordan Spencer; junior Brandon Harris; freshman Jeremy Lewin; senior Christian Zeitler, playing A-Rab; sophomore Shane Owings; freshman Wil Clancy, portraying Baby John; senior Troy Vratarich, playing Diesel; sophomore Jake Wills, portraying Snowboy; sophomore Jacob Fischer; and senior Alex Dangel, portraying Action.
The Jets of "West Side Story" stare down their opposing gang. From left: sophomore Jordan Spencer; junior Brandon Harris; freshman Jeremy Lewin; senior Christian Zeitler, playing A-Rab; sophomore Shane Owings; freshman Wil Clancy, portraying Baby John; senior Troy Vratarich, playing Diesel; sophomore Jake Wills, portraying Snowboy; sophomore Jacob Fischer; and senior Alex Dangel, portraying Action. (Nancy McKenzie photo, Carroll County Times)

There will be a place for you when the students of Liberty High School present "West Side Story" for their spring musical. The show, chronicling the gang warfare between the Sharks and the Jets, opens Friday, April 11.

The stage at the school has been transformed into a dismal cityscape, with tall, brick buildings, clotheslines and chain-link fences. Senior Ann Devine said, "It's hard to think that this huge, ginormous thing is one of our simpler sets."

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"West Side Story" marks a departure from musicals that are focused on all ages. Director and drama teacher Tony Cimino said, "This is also our first 'classic' musical that I've directed here, and it's the 10th anniversary of when it was originally done here."

Working with Cimino on the production are co-director and choreographer Tina Delcher, assistant choreographer Jenny Delcher, assistant director Trish Deen and musical director Kristen Ion.

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"West Side Story" brings the Shakespearean "Romeo and Juliet" to the racism and gang warfare of New York City in the 1950s. Top that off with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics from Stephen Sondheim, and it's a challenging show for any theater company.

Plus, there's the dancing. At the time of its original production in 1957, there was more dance in "West Side Story" than in any prior Broadway show.

Devine, playing Rosalita, said, "It's nice, because this has been a very heavy dance show. It's a side of theater we haven't done that much before. Kids who want to go into theater got acclimated to the dancing."

Junior Aniyah Bailey, in her first show at Liberty, plays a Shark girl. "It's given me a lot of experience in new styles of dancing," she said. "I'm looking forward to doing it again."

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Although he's never taken any formal dance training, sophomore Jacob Fischer, playing Gee-Tar, has been the featured male dancer, according to Devine. "I love dancing," Fischer said. "As the Jets we got really close. On the weekends, we'd get together and call them 'Jetogethers,' and we'd work on dance and characters."

Another Jet, Action, played by senior Alex Dangel, said, "I like the team approach to it. I come from a sports background, so I like that team feel to it. Those are the roles I thrive in."

Senior Leah White, playing Anybodys, the girl who wants to join the Jets, said, "It is the most fun I've had in any show. I get to roll around and tumble. I get loud and obnoxious, while still having a deeper meaning. We get to play characters who are relatable to our age."

The female lead, Maria, is played by junior Alaina Kahn. "Getting inside the role is what I'm working with," she said. "This is an emotional show. I go from frustrated to madly in love to horrific loss."

However, senior Carter Johnson, playing the male lead, Tony, said, "I am very excited to die again!" referring to his "death" in the January production of "The Trench."

He continued on a more serious note. "I want to thank the directors for all the work they put in and for always supporting me. It's all for them, and it's all for the people coming to see it. And, I hope they enjoy it, because it's been a blast to work on for me," he said.

Of course, this show marks the swan song for the seniors. Devine was philosophical about the transition.

"There's only so much you can learn in high school, so at some point, you have to leave and move on," said Devine. "I am never going to forget what I've done here, and no matter where I go, it will always be better, because of what I've done here."

Performances of "West Side Story" are scheduled for 7 p.m. April 11, 12, 24, 25 and 26 and 2 p.m. April 12 and 26. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

Tickets which include advance seating are available for $15, which would allow you to choose your seat from 6 to 6:30 p.m., prior to other ticket holders being admitted to the auditorium.

All tickets can be purchased online at http://www.lhsdramaclub.com/box-office.html or in the lobby of the school during school hours. You can get more information at

or by calling the school at 410-751-3560.

Liberty High School's Schnorr Auditorium is at 5855 Bartholow Road, Eldersburg.

Easter event

The members of Friendship Baptist Church in Sykesville invite everyone to Countdown to Easter at Millard Cooper Park from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday. This is a free event for all ages.

The puppet musical "Countdown to Easter" will feature puppet TV host Cameron Camel presenting his top five Easter songs. The show will be performed at 3:45 and 5:15 p.m. and lasts 27 minutes.

There will be a car show with both classic and modern show cars. Attendees can vote for their favorite car.

Other attractions include pony rides, a petting zoo, a moon bounce, clowns, hot dogs and more.

Everyone attending is also eligible to win a four-pack of tickets to Hershey Park.

Millard Cooper Park is at 7252 Cooper Drive, across the street from Sykesville Middle School.

Call the church at 410-442-5506 for more information.

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